No. 10 Leilehua finds the right combo on offense to beat No. 7 Damien

Leilehua quarterback Kekoa Turnagan (7) handled the pressure from Damien's defense all game to throw for three touchdowns in a 34-26 win. Photo by Darryl Oumi/Special to the Star-Advertiser.

Leilehua head coach Mark Kurisu took a deep breath, found a seat on the bench and nodded toward former Mules quarterback Andrew Manley.

“You should be interviewing Coach Drew,” an understandably drained Kurisu said after the 10th-ranked Mules’ 34-26 win over No. 7 Damien on Friday night.

Kurisu’s deference to the Mules’ offensive coordinator was rooted in a performance in which senior quarterback Kekoa Turangan threw for three touchdowns and junior receiver Kalei Akagi, who began the season as the starting QB, contributed in three facets for the offense to help power the Mules past the previously undefeated Monarchs.

“We had to have two quarterbacks ready to go,” Kurisu said. “I put a lot of pressure on Coach Drew. I know he was frustrated but now you’re able to see how good of an OC he’s becoming. He’s growing and I’m very grateful for all his hard work and sacrifice.”

Turangan moved from the backup role into the starting spot prior to Leilehua’s 41-0 win over Aiea last week and turned in an efficient night against Damien in completing 19 of 24 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

“The thing about him is that boy is always confident, not much bothers him,” said Manley, himself a part of Leilehua lore when he stepped in as a sophomore called up from the junior varsity team to lead the Mules to a state title. “Even when we named Kalei the starter at the beginning of the year he accepted the role and he’s still one of our captains. … My big motto to the offense is always be ready, you never know when your number is going to be called and he did a great job of that.”

Akagi had worked at receiver during the summer and opened the scoring on Friday with a 41-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He scored on an 80-yard run to break a 20-20 tie in the third quarter and moments later completed a 47-yard pass to set up a short touchdown run for Turangan that pushed the Mules ahead 34-20.

“I was just proud for (Turangan),” Akagi said of switching quarterback roles. “I said, ‘it’s your turn, step up to the plate and just ball out.’ He’s been balling out and can’t ask for anything better than that.”

On this Friday the 13th, Akagi — Leilehua’s No. 13 — was the bearer of bad fortune for Damien for much of the night.

Akagi caught seven passes for 105 yards, starting with his first-quarter touchdown. Turangan threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jayzon Ramos with 5 seconds left in the second quarter and a 28-yarder in the third to give the Mules a 20-14 lead. Ramos finished with six catches for a game-high 136 yards.

Damien answered with an 11-play march and River Iaea scored on a 5-yard run. But Ethan Kuth blocked the extra point to keep the score tied.

After a touchback on the kickoff, the Mules lined up in a tight formation and Turangan pitched the ball to Akagi on a sweep toward the boundary. He popped through a seam along the sideline to take it 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

“Jayzon Ramos blocked a guy outside, my five linemen were running the track and created a hole and I just hit the gap,” Akagi said, “and it was just turn on the boosters from there. … We repped it a lot so we could perfect it and it just showed on the field we did great in practice.”

Said Manley: “It looks simple, but it took a lot of planning.”

Leilehua defensive lineman Kiaka Pio then recovered his own onside kick and on the next play Akagi took another toss and this time pulled up and lofted a throw to Ramos for a 47-yard completion to set up the Mules’ second touchdown in a span of 22 seconds.

“He’s an athlete, he can play all over the field,” Manley said. “He played a lot of receiver in the 7-on-7 tournaments we had this summer. He bounced back and forth from quarterback to receiver, so the transition was easy for him. Him and Koa already have a good connection from all summer long and all fall.”

The quick strikes were turnabout from a first-half sequence that gave Damien a 14-7 lead.

Jake Holtz threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Natividad, who then recovered an onside kick. Three plays later, Apereamo Sulu (118 yards on 14 carries) bounced outside and went the distance for a 36-yard touchdown.

After Leilehua burst ahead in the third quarter, Holtz cut the deficit with a touchdown pass to Ezra Kaina with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter and the Monarchs got the ball back with 2 minutes left.

They converted on fourth-and-20 from their 30 on a lateral to Natividad, who threw back across the field to Sulu who followed his blockers to midfield for the first down. The Mules were flagged for two personal fouls after completions to move the ball to the Leilehua 10. Iaea was stopped short of the goal line on third down and the Monarchs scrambled back to the line with the clock ticking under 10 seconds. Holtz was pressured and his fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 4 seconds left.

“I’ll take the blame for that,” Damien coach Eddie Klaneski said. “I should have called a timeout at the end and given our offense another chance at that last play.

“They fought hard all the way to the end and I’ll take the loss on this one for sure.”


  1. Mark Turangan September 14, 2019 3:54 pm

    I appreciate the article of my son, Kekoa Turangan. Please ensure to spell his last name correctly. It’s “Turangan”, not “Turnagan”
    Otherwise a great article. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email